Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Banana Bread

One of the most cherished memories I have of growing up is the hair massage my mom would give both me and my sister every weekend. All through childhood, Sunday mornings would find the two of us lounging on a mat, stuffing our mouths with chiwda and watching T.V. while my mom massaged oil - always warm coconut oil - into our hair.


It is a well known fact that certain scents trigger specific memories and the smell of coconut oil always takes me back to those Sunday mornings, to the easy rhythm of those days and to my mother's touch and love.


It was only when I got married that I discovered, very much to my chagrin, that coconut oil was a much loved cooking medium in my Tamilian husband's family - and all over South India. Seeing my MIL drizzle coconut oil over a bowl of avial, the only thought I had in my mind was "ewww...wonder whether this bottle has come from the bathroom!" I could barely push 'the food containing hair oil' down my throat that day.


But over a period of time, I fell in love with the taste of coconut oil. It has that 'je ne sais quoi' quality - something that I can't put my finger on, but I do know that there are certain dishes that don't taste quite the same if made without coconut oil.




Much maligned the world over for decades as being heart unfriendly, coconut oil seems to be winning new supporters in recent times as being heart healthy! Just a few days ago, I came across this article extolling the virtues of coconut oil. But in the entire article, this sentence caught my eye - "She also mixes virgin coconut oil in oatmeal for creaminess and flavor, uses it to sauté greens, and has successfully played around with it in brownies and banana bread."


Now, the only way I've used coconut oil is in making some curries and stir - fried veggies . But coconut oil in baking? In brownies and banana bread? My curiosity was piqued.




Somehow, coconut oil in banana bread made some sense to me - both bananas and coconuts being tropical fruits and all that and I decided to experiment with coconut oil the next time I made banana bread.




Coconutty Banana Bread


Ingredients:



Mashed bananas: 1 cup (ideally, the bananas should be over-ripe)
Sugar: 3/4 cup
Egg: 1
Baking soda: 1- 1/4tsp
Grated coconut - 1/4 cup, optional
Coconut oil: 1/4 cup (you could also use any vegetable oil of your choice)

All purpose flour: 1 cup
Whole wheat pastry flour: 1/2 cup (if you don't have whole wheat flour, just use 1- 1/2 cups of all purpose flour)
Baking powder: 1- 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon powder: 1/2 tsp, optional
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Walnuts: 1/4 cup, chopped




Method:



Whisk the flours with the baking powder, cinnamon powder and salt.




Beat the egg and sugar together till fluffy and pale lemony in colour. Then fold in the mashed bananas and the grated coconut. Sprinkle the baking soda over this mixture and fold it in.


Then add the coconut oil in a thin trickle and mix it well into the batter. Finally, fold in the flour in 3 additions and after which mix in the chopped walnuts.


Pre-heat the oven to 180 deg C or 350 deg F. Pour the batter into a greased medium sized loaf pan (I used an oval cake pan as my loaf pan is too large) and bake for about 45 mins or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.




Once the bread was in the oven and baking, I was overcome with a lot of anxiety. What if the coconut oil ruined the bread?



However, any skepticism I had about using coconut oil in the banana bread was gone with the first whiff of the banana bread as it came out of the oven. It was one very aromatic loaf. Nutty notes from the coconut oil, sweet scent of the ripe bananas and a slight hint of cinnamon. Very aromatic indeed. And the taste - oh the taste! The coconut oil imparts a very delicate flavour to the banana bread - one that lingers on on the palate and almost haunts the taste-buds making you reach out for another slice and another and another. So go ahead and try coconut oil in your bakes, you won't be disappointed!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Coconut Pancakes

I would like you all to believe that we did what we did because we were so wrapped up in each other that we could think of nothing else. I would like you all to think that we did what we did because we were very engrossed in stimulating conversation and got carried away.


But the plain truth is that we did what we did because we were absent-minded.


At the very least, I hope that the waiter and the cashier believed us when we told him that we walked away without paying the bill not because we wanted a free meal, but because we actually forgot about the bill.









If I ever have to list my most embarrassing moments ever, this one would top that list. The one where the husband and I had a hearty breakfast at one of our favourite cafes, tossed the napkins over our empty plates, got up and left. Neither of us realised that there was a bill to be paid!




The next part repeats itself in slow motion: the waiter running behind us and shouting "Excuse me sir, your bill....you didn't pay the bill."




Everyone else in the restaurant stopped eating and we could feel several eyes trained on us. Can you imagine the embarrassment?







Of course, we tried to brush it off with some laughter but once we stepped out, I swore I would never return to the restaurant again. No matter that I loved coconut pancakes there and frequented the restaurant mainly for those pancakes.



Of course, what you cannot go out and eat, you make at home. And make it well, so that you never ever need to go out and eat it at any restaurant again!








Coconut Pancakes

Ingredients:


Plain flour: 3/4 cup
Whole wheat pastry flour: 3/4 cup
Coconut milk: 1.5 cups
Egg: 1 large
Sugar: 2 tbsps
Baking powder: 2 tsps
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Grated coconut: 3 tbsps
Oil: 1 tbsp + some more for greasing the pan


Optional:

Banana: 1
Brown sugar: 2 tbsps


OR

Passion fruit: 2
Mango juice: 1/2 cup
Cornflour: 1 tsp, whisked in 1 tsp water


Method:


Sift both the flours, salt and the baking powder in a bowl. Stir in the sugar and the grated coconut.


Beat the egg and whisk it with the coconut milk and oil. Add this to the dry ingredients and beat to get a smooth batter. Let the batter stand for 10 minutes.


Meanwhile, make the passion fruit and mango coulis. Scoop out the pulp from the passion fruit, mix it into the mango juice and bring to a boil. Add the cornflour and stir it starts to thicken.


Pour a couple of ladles on a greased and heated non stick frying pan. Cook for a couple of minutes; when bubbles start to form on the top , flip over and cook for a further 2 minutes or until golden brown.


Before serving, slice the banana, toss it in the brown sugar and fry it till the sugar just starts to caramelise.


Serve the pancakes with some passion fruit - mango coulis or caramelised banana; I preferred them with the bananas.


I prefer my pancakes on the thinner side; this recipe makes 8 pancakes.




















It is not just about the ingredients or the recipe, good food happens when it is served with love!!

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